FLORENCE -- Students in some University of North Alabama degree fields will have the ability to fast track their bachelor's and master's degrees under a new program that will start in August.

The university will begin offering in the fall combined bachelor's and master's degree programs for health, physical education and recreation; professional writing; English; geographic information sciences; and master's of business administration. 

The change was presented to UNA trustees at their quarterly meeting Tuesday.

Joy Borah, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the dual degree programs will allow students to complete both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree program together or in short sequence.

She said the program will be an inducement for students, helping the university retain students through the completion of a bachelor's degree while growing the university's graduate enrollment.

The university will allow students in the fast-track programs to take nine hours of graduate courses for the same cost as nine hours of undergraduate work, thus offering the students a savings for completing their advanced degrees at UNA.

Alabama, Auburn, University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of South Alabama offer similar dual-degree programs.

"The schools that we did not find comparable information for were Troy (University), Montevallo or Jacksonville State University," Borah said. "We think we will be ahead of them in terms of increasing enrollment and attracting students to our graduate programs."

The 2017-18 academic year will serve as a pilot year for the program. Borah said the program will then be analyzed to determine the successes and what changes may be necessary. 

Online marketing

Two contracts totaling more than $1 million to use online marketing in hopes of attracting students to certain online degree programs were unanimously approved by the board.

The College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences will contract with Collegis Education to provide digital marketing and student leads for enrollment in several online programs --  bachelor of business administration in professional management, master's degrees in criminal justice, professional studies in safety and security, and geospatial science.

The College of Business already partners with Collegis to market the online MBA program. Enrollment in that program has grown from 133 new enrollments in 2014-15 school year to 364 new enrollments in the 2016-17 year.

The university will spend $1,035,378 for online marketing through Google and Bing internet search engines, for set up and management fees, and for a UNA recruiter to follow up student leads.

The new agreements are three-year contracts with an opt-out clause after one year for the College of Arts and Sciences degrees, and after two years for the College of Business program.

jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com or 256-740-5754. Twitter @TD_JEdwards.

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